The World Wide Web you see, use, and like most of us, rely on, is not the only Internet lurking on our computers.
According to Anand Rajaraman, co-founder of Kosmix, a search engine for the deep web or the “dark web” as it’s often referred to, “The publicly visible web is only the tip of the iceberg.”
The deep web is the part of the internet most people never see – it’s virtually invisible – unless you know where to look. Simply put, the dark web is the part of the internet that can’t be indexed – it’s literally one of the only places Google can’t go.
So what’s in the dark web? Alfonso A. Kejaya Munoz, a security researcher at McAfee Chile says, “The Deep Web is made up of large amounts of information that has been posted online and that for technical reasons has not been catalogued or updated by search engines.” Some studies have suggested that the Deep Web represents approximately 90% of the internet.
How does a person access the Deep Web? It has become easier to access over time and it’s believed that the Deep Web was created by the United States Naval Research Laboratory. During its infancy in 2002, the US Navy developed a piece of software called Tor. Its intended use was to protect government communications. However it was soon adopted by computer techies around the world and has become the poster child for the “dark internet.”
The Tor Project is a non-profit company launched in Walpole, Massachusetts in 2002. Their objective was to allow people to anonymously surf the internet and make freedom of speech possible.
Tor, which is another name for The Onion Router is most well-known for hosting outlawed websites. It works by sending a series of nodes, or onion routes, all the time adding layers of encryption coding during various stages with the result being that online users and people hosting certain websites will be virtually untraceable by the authorities. Rather than conventional web addresses, Tor uses “onion” address which further hide the content. There are even special search engines like Bing and Duck Duck Go that will return onion addresses for Tor services.
At first glance, Tor may appear to simply be a family-friendly way to access an ad free alternative web space. However many others see the dark web as a dangerous place full of criminal activity.
The dark web can allow you to download music and movies illegally, distribute child pornography, and find sites that give you access to stolen credit cards, terrorist activities and communications through dark web forums. These are just a few of the illegal activities that are taking place in the deep web.
Law enforcement agencies have had great success in shutting down sites and arresting their users and the people behind them. The most famous of these was the arrest of Ross Ulbricht, the person behind the most well known of the drug markets, Silk Road.
One user with a rather limited knowledge of computers explained how be began using Tor. This browser gave him deep web access and after entering a link he found online, he came across Silk Road. After registering with the site, he discovered how to purchase almost every known pharmaceutical known to man. He picked a selection and paid with Bitcoins, which is one of the preferred methods of payment in the dark web, and a few days later received a discreet package containing a birthday card and a plastic bag of cocaine. He had the same experience when he ordered hashish.
In another case, a group called Anonymous is believed to have used Tor to organize huge attacks on all kinds of organizations and has used the deep web not only to order direct actions but to organize itself.